Texas Horseback Emergency Response Team
The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) is the state’s lead agency for all animal issues in disasters, whether natural or man-made. The TAHC is also the primary response agency for foreign and emerging diseases in livestock and poultry. Prior to a disease or disaster event, the TAHC conducts planning, coordinates trainings, and works to ensure the state’s preparedness to protect the livestock and poultry industry, as well as household pets.
Dr. Ellis with Chief Kidd
In 2012, the Executive Director of the Texas Animal Health Commission, Dr. Dee Ellis, created the newest addition to Texas’s animal response capabilities by forming the Texas Horseback Emergency Response Team (HERT). The team is comprised of TAHC and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) staff who volunteer to assist in emergency response in the aftermath of a disaster. The TAHC/USDA mounted response team is the only one of its kind in the United States. The team is well versed in performing damage assessments, identifying stray and loose livestock, rounding up and transporting identified animals to secure locations or back to their owners.
The response team also assists in capturing animals which pose disease threats that have strayed into Texas from Mexico. They provide public safety protection and are prepared to assist other states upon request.
In the spring and summer of 2014, the team performed multiple roundups to catch displaced Mexican-origin free ranging cattle on the Texas side of the river. These cattle continually pose a threat to the health of Texas livestock by potentially spreading diseases such as tuberculosis and brucellosis, which are commonly found in Mexico.
The HERT recently received the Emergency Management Association of Texas (EMAT) award for excellence in Emergency Management.
The TAHC and USDA look forward to blazing the trail for similar type response teams around the country. The HERT has become a tremendously prepared team, providing many capabilities for the state of Texas and is proud to serve as a strong template for other agencies with similar responsibilities.